Bellary: With the fall of the high and mighty mining barons, this iron rich district, infamously known as the "Republic of Bellary", is going to the Lok Sabha polls bereft of the overbearing mining clout and hangover.
Money and muscle power had come out in all its ugly manifestations in the earlier elections which now do not appear to be overtly visible.
Bellary was the scene of the famous electoral battle between Sonia Gandhi, on her electoral debut, and senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in 1999. Gandhi won that round with over 50,000 vote margin, but after that, the BJP wrested the seat.
In the April 17 Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, B Sriramulu, who returned recently to BJP, leaving behind his outfit BSR Congress formed after quitting the saffron party two years ago, takes on a retired chief justice, Congress` N Y Hanumanthappa.
The scenario is, however, altogether different for Sriramulu who is contesting without the blessing of his former mentor, Swaraj, who publicly opposed his entry into BJP.
Sriramulu is still unabashed about considering Swaraj his "mother" and says, "I am where I am because of Sushma Swaraj`s blessings. And with her blessings, I will win this time."
Apparently dictated by electoral arithmetic, BJP overruled its own senior leader to open the door to Sriramulu, whose sister Shanta now represents Bellary.
Sriramulu, who enjoys considerable clout with the Valmiki community, was once a trusted aide of Janardhana Reddy, one of the Reddy triumvirate, apart from Karunakara Reddy and G Somashekara Reddy, who had ruled the roost, mostly attributed to the BJP`s strong emergence in the district.
Now Janardhana Reddy is cooling his heels in a jail in Hyderabad since September 2011 in connection with an illegal mining case in Andhra Pradesh.
The decline of the mining clout is clearly visible in the runup to the Lok Sabha polls, with over 50 mining leases placed under `category C` for indulging in rampant illegal mining activities cancelled as per Supreme Court directions.
Three MLAs from the district are in jail on charges of illegal mining and transport of iron ore through Belekeri port.